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Challenge fic for Hexnut - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Challenge fic for Hexnut
Continuing with the challenges. I may not get to all of them.

This one, from Hexnut.
Penelope, fending off suitors while she waits for Percy to return to his family.

I did do one Penelope story (Flashwrap), but I definitley don't write her often, so it's fair game.




Slamming the door on Percy Christmas morning had been the hardest thing that Penelope had ever done. Until then, she'd tried--really tried--to go along with him and support him, even though he was acting a plain fool.

But when she saw him tie an unopened package from his mum to his owl's leg and send him back to the Burrow, it was over. She didn't care about his political differences, and she understood his frustration with his father to some extent, but with his father at St. Mungo's in grave danger, he had deliberately hurt his mother.

That was more than Penelope was willing to condone, and she wouldn't be doing Percy or anyone else any favors by letting him get away with it. He'd given her a surprised look when she turned on her heel to leave, and it had faded into hurt, but he hadn't stopped her while she pulled her cloak on (coat, actually, as she was headed to her parents' after) and gathered her things. All he'd said was, "You, too, then?"

She'd stopped at the door, looked down at her feet, and said, "You know, Percy, when this many people who love you are furious with you, maybe you should be looking at yourself instead of them."

She hadn't stayed to hear him argue or plead. Soon enough, he would have convinced her that he needed her, and it wasn't true.

Well, it was.

But what he needed from her and what he wanted from her were two different things, and walking out, forcing him to deal with his choices, was what he actually needed.

That had been three months ago. She'd spent Valentine's Saturday in her little house outside of Hogsmeade, listening to the Hogwarts students go by and crying intermittantly. It was the first Valentine's Day she'd spent alone since, during her fifth year at Hogwarts, Percy had somehow prevailed upon the elves to let him cook for her. To make the day even worse, when she'd started cleaning her house to distract herself, she'd found a bag of clothes--mostly jumpers--that she'd told Percy she would repair for him. He knew how, but mending clothes was part of her job, and when she'd offered, she remembered thinking that at least mending Percy's clothes meant something to her. That had been only a few days before Christmas.

She'd taken one of the jumpers and held it against her face, but it smelled like her house, not like Percy.

What made her do what she decided to do next was a mystery to her, and she didn't question it. She just picked up a shirt and started mending. A button here, a torn seam there. It didn't take long. She finished the shirt, used an Unwrinkling Charm, and hung it up on an empty bar.

One.

Each day, she'd taken a new item out of the bag and fixed it, and now fourteen items--shirts, robes, and the beginning of the line of jumpers--hung in a row. Each day as she went to work, she grabbed another jumper and put it in her bag, thinking that once she finished, she could bring him the lot, and there would be closure.

Today's was the last, and she'd gone to Florian Fortescue's to have a sundae while she shored up the places where the yarn had snagged, fixed the ragged collar line, and tried to Charm out a stubborn stain.

This was her habit.

Unfortunately, her known habit.

"Miss Clearwater?"

She sighed. The man who came to sit with her every day was intelligent, passionate about Muggle-born issues (he was, himself, Muggle-born), and old enough to be her father. "Hello, Mr. Egerton," she said.

"Lovely to see you here as always." He waved Florian over and asked him for two milkshakes, ordering Penelope's favorite without asking. She'd let him do this once, thinking he meant to mentor her, and it had gotten to be a habit, although she now suspected his interests were not professional. It would be awkward to bring it up, though. Not to mention, he did have a fairly high position in Muggle relations, and if Penelope wanted a job any better than that of a salesgirl, it probably wouldn't be wise to insult him. "I see you're still taking in mending."

Penelope looked down at Percy's jumper and nodded, busying herself with a stubborn bit of frayed yarn that didn't want to go back into its place. "I'm almost done with this batch," she said.

"When you are done, perhaps we can go to lunch more properly."

"This one could take awhile," she said. "And I enjoy having ice cream for lunch. It's horrible for my figure, but I suppose I'll survive."

"You're such a bright young woman," Egerton said. "Why are you wasting your talents working in retail?"

"It was the only job that was open."

"I'm sure there are Ministry positions..."

"No, thank you," Penelope said, her heart jumping. She didn't think Egerton was proposing a trade of affection for employment--he was many things, including socially backward from time to time, but he didn't seem unethical--but she didn't want to get any closer, let alone in a position where she was obliged to him.

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure."

"Really, if--"

"Well, hullo, look here!" someone else said. A chair slid up to the side of the table, followed a moment later by a lanky young man with a spotty face. "My favorite prefect." He smiled at her.

Penelope smiled, waiting for his name to come to her--he'd been a Ravenclaw, and she'd lived in the tower with him for seven years, but for some reason, she was entirely blanking on his name. She pointed to Egerton and said, "This is Mr. Egerton.

The Ravenclaw extended his hand pleasantly enough and said--to Penelope's great relief--"Andrew Vayle. I'm pleased to meet you, sir."

"Vayle?" Egerton asked. "Are you related to--"

"Tolman Vayle." Andrew wrinkled his nose. "He's my father, but I'm not not in the family business. Bloody pure-blood nonsense. We wouldn't have Penny here if he had his way." He gave her a grin. "Can't have that."

She smiled tightly. Other than the families that had been in Slytherin whose scions had occasionally called her names or refused to take her authority seriously, she had no idea who the old pure-blood families were. "Vayle" meant nothing to her.

"I, er... have a lot of mending to do," she said, standing up. "Really, I should go back to Tattered. I have... dyes there that I need."

"I'll walk you over," Andrew said.

"No, really, there's no point. I'll probably stop and buy some buttons along the way. For more mending I need to do."

She ducked out, leaving Vayle and Egerton with puzzled frowns on their faces, not sure what they were meant to say to one another.

Back at Tattered, she sat in the back room, where she kept her cloak, and caught her breath. "Closure," she whispered, and, "Almost done."

She spent the rest of her shift dealing with parents of teenage girls, who looked dubiously at the shop's selection and had to be assured that yes, girls as young as thirteen enthusiastically embraced these fashions. At the end of the day, her head thumping, she went to the Leaky Cauldron, meaning to floo back to the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade and walk home. Apparition was tricky enough without a headache.

She waited in the queue in front of the fireplace, drawing out the jumper to work on the stubborn stain.

"Penny?"

Frustrated, she looked up, then smiled. Elliot Calloway, who had been a Hufflepuff prefect in her year, opened his arms and gave her a hug. "You look like you feel awful," he said.

"Headache." She rolled her eyes. "And a bit of stress, I suppose."

"Anything I can do?"

"No, not really. It just has to pass."

"I heard that you and Percy broke up. I'm sorry, really. You two seemed to be good together."

"We were."

The door to the tavern opened, and Penelope looked up inadvertantly. She supposed she should have been surprised to see Percy come in right while she was talking about him, but she wasn't. He glanced over and saw her talking to Elliot, then set his jaw and walked away.

Elliot didn't see him. "If you'd like to come over and talk--"

Penelope shook her head. "I have mending to do," she said again.

"Well, when you're finished."

"Yes, of course," Penelope said, distracted. "Thank you."

The queue had thinned out, and it was Penelope's turn. She dropped two sickles into the dispenser and took the handful of floo powder it gave her. Looking across the room, she could see Percy's shoulders, hunched inward over whatever he was eating or drinking. Elliot, assuming she was looking at him, waved. She waved back, tossed the powder into the fire, and spun through the floo network.

The Three Broomsticks was mercifully empty, and the only person who talked to her was Rosmerta, who asked her cheerfully how she was and offered her a sure-fire headache Potion, which she declined. The brisk March air cleared her head better than any potion she'd ever taken.

She made her way to her house, welcoming the shadows of the trees, and letting herself in gratefully. She sat down on at her kitchen table and drew the jumper out again.

It was finished. Her stitching was neat, her darning nearly unnoticeable. Even the stain was gone. She could take the basket to Percy's tomorrow, and it would all be over.

Slowly, deliberately, she drew out her darning needle, and began to unravel her work.

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11 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
narcissam From: narcissam Date: November 17th, 2004 05:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is wonderful.

NM
willowbough From: willowbough Date: November 17th, 2004 05:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hi, I don't post often, but this ficlet definitely intrigues me. I like how you've given Penny a mind and opinions of her own, apart from Percy's. And I was especially struck by the way you ended the story, with Penny completing her mending--a symbol perhaps of finishing things off with Percy?--only to start undoing her work, rather like the Penelope of classical myth unweaving her father-in-law's shroud every night to keep suitors at bay! So I guess Penny's not 100% through with Percy after all. Very ingenious!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 17th, 2004 05:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
:)

Thanks. I actually thought about making the clothes Arthur's, so the Odyssey connection would be exact, but there was no logical way to make it work.
calixa From: calixa Date: November 17th, 2004 06:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fantastic. There isn't enough Penelope/Percy fic out there. :)
riah_chan From: riah_chan Date: November 17th, 2004 06:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
This story was great... I especially loved the end with the undone mending.

Riah-chan
risti From: risti Date: November 17th, 2004 06:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very nice! I'm always glad to see more Percy/Penelope fic out there.
the_jackalope From: the_jackalope Date: November 17th, 2004 06:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am an idiot and didn't get the Oddessy refference untill the last line. Very well done. Very well done
odyssea From: odyssea Date: November 17th, 2004 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very nice. I enjoyed the Odyssey reference, and I think you have a great feel for a character without much canon background. I really enjoyed it.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 17th, 2004 07:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! I guess the unmending part was telegraphed from the point you mentioned the basket of jumpers, but I loved the way you held it off to the final line and put such emotional weight to it.
Hexnut
queenrikki_hp From: queenrikki_hp Date: November 18th, 2004 01:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Enjoyed this little ficlet very much (actually, I also like the other one you did about Penelope). I enjoyed the Odyssey reference (The Odyssey, one of the best things that ever happened to high school english)
stars_fell From: stars_fell Date: December 22nd, 2004 03:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
WOOT. Thanks tons for pointing me in this direction. There's such a lack of good Percy/Penny fic (or ANY, for that matter) out there and it just thrills me to know you've written some.
11 comments or Leave a comment